A transgender woman was attacked and beaten outside her apartment complex on Thursday night, sending her to the hospital with severe injuries which will require surgery for a full recovery.
Rilee Bumgardner-Shipley was reportedly hit and kicked in the head at a dog park outside her 12th Street home around 11:30 p.m.
According to police, emergency medical crews responding to the scene took Bumgardner-Shipley to Wyoming Medical Center with serious injuries.
“The victim told officers a neighbor physically assaulted them while outside at the dog park,” Casper police spokesperson Rebekah Ladd said in a statement to the Star-Tribune.
In the aftermath, Bumgardner-Shipley said she’s had trouble sleeping, is scared in her own home and won’t go out alone.
She said she had seen one of the attackers at the apartment complex’s dog park early Thursday morning, and that she didn’t recognize him or his dogs. After picking up her own dog, who gets anxious and skittish around new dogs, she said the man started cussing at her and calling her the N-word.
When she reported the incident to her landlord, Bumgardner-Shipley said, they knew exactly who she was referring to.
“I went to work for the afternoon and I felt really anxious and on edge all day,” Bumgardner-Shipley said, “like something bad was going to happen.”
Later, after coming home from work, Bumgardner-Shipley said she took her dog out again around 11:30 and saw the man again, this time with another man and the two dogs. The man reportedly began yelling at her and using the racial slur again.
“He told me that me and my piece of s--- dog deserved to die,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “All this awful, awful stuff. So I leaned down and tried to put the leash on my dog so that we could leave.”
Bumgardner-Shipley said the next part is a little hard to recall, but she remembers the back of her head being hit then being kicked in the side of her head. Her skull bounced off of a fence post, and the men took their dogs and left her lying in her own blood, looking for her glasses and trying to get home. She said one eye was so badly crusted with blood it was hours before she could open it again.
“I came out as a trans person a little over four years ago,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “About that time I was made aware of a saying — This is Wyoming, we don’t take offense to gays, we take gays to fences.”
She’s strongly considering moving out of her apartment complex, she said, and wants to have a house with a yard where she can put cameras up.
A GoFundMe fundraiser created by Bumgardner-Shipley’s sister says Bumgardner-Shipley sustained fractures to her orbital bone, lower sinus and cheekbone. The hospital also reportedly stapled a head wound caused by the kicks.
Bumgardner-Shipley said Tuesday she has one surgery scheduled for Friday to put her cheekbone back into place and will likely need at least one more for her fractured eye socket.
The fundraiser had surpassed its $4,500 goal as of Monday, raising nearly $5,000 by midday Tuesday.
“I don’t even have words to describe how grateful I am to everybody that’s reached out and helped us and been kind to my family,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “I’ve just been overwhelmed with support and love.”
Ladd said no arrests have been made in connection to the incident, but investigators have identified people of interest. The investigation is active and ongoing.
“It’s scary still living here,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “I want to trust and believe that the police are doing things behind the scenes, investigation-wise, that I just am not aware of, but I haven’t received any updates since Saturday night.”
Since Bumgardner-Shipley came out as trans, she said, she’s never experienced anything like this in Casper. But she hopes being a visible trans person here can set an example and provide representation for others.
“I live very publicly, proudly, who I am and my truth,” Bumgardner-Shipley said. “And I don’t try to hide who I am … When I was growing up I didn’t know what transgender means, let alone that I could be that. So if I can be that so someone else can be like, ‘whoa, hey, that’s me,’ then this is all worth it.”
Follow city and crime reporter Ellen Gerst on Twitter at @ellengerst.